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The trip that started Michael Palin's new career
on 9 January 2006
"Around the World in 80 Days" is the book based on the TV travelogue that Michael Palin made for the BBC in 1988. This travelogue was such a success that it started a whole series of TV programs over the following years: "Pole to Pole", "Full Circle", "Hemingway Adventure", "Sahara" and "Himalaya".
The trip was intended to follow the route traveled by Phileas Fogg in Jules Verne's novel from 1872. The self-imposed rule was that airplane travel was not allowed so only trains, buses, ships and cars could be used. This was problematic for Michael Palin because in 1872 there were many passenger ship lines, while in 1988 there were almost none because of air travel. As a result he had to obtain passage on various cargo and container ships that normally don't accept passengers.
All of Michael Palin's travel books (and DVDs) share the same qualities. Mr. Palin's wit and charm and exuberance are evident, and he has a knack of meeting interesting people and getting involved in amusing situations wherever he goes.
This trip is, however, unlike the others in that there is a pre-defined route involving a lot of sea travel, and a "race against the clock" element because the trip must be completed in 80 days. The time limit provides a bit of excitement, especially when Michael Palin passes through Singapore 10 days behind the fictitious Phileas Fogg.
The large amount of sea travel is a negative aspect because it's limited how many interesting things can be done aboard a container ship, for example. In fact, a significant number of the 80 days are spent on board ships, and it gets rather boring.
Still, there are many interesting experiences reported and photographed from the various cities passed through, as well as the countryside. The cultural differences are amazing and Michael Palin reports on it all in a way that makes you feel like you're there with him.
The pictures are beautiful, even though they were not all taken by Basil Pao, who became Michael Palin's regular stills photographer on all of his later trips.
My only criticism is that I would have liked there to be some maps in the book so I could follow the trip more exactly.
The audio version of this book is read by Michael Palin himself, which is a plus. But beware: There are both abridged and unabridged versions of the audio book.
In summary, a great start for what became a great series of travel books and TV programs.